Does the world need yet another cinematic reworking of the Cinderella story, and so soon after Ella Enchanted went all Shrek on the fairy tale? Well, no. But teen starlets like Hilary Duff need to work, lest their fickle fans forget they exist, and one rehashed storyline is as good as another—so here comes yet another modernized riff on the old fable.
You don't have to follow the teen magazines to know that there has, of late, been some sort of rivalry between Duff and her fellow teen idol Lindsay Lohan. Whatever might be going on behind the scenes, it is probably fair to say that Duff is losing the battle for big-screen supremacy. While Lohan has shown impressive range and lent her wide-eyed, crinkle-faced bewilderment to such intelligent romps as Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, Duff is all cherubic cuteness and bland perkiness; she doesn't have much of a screen presence, and she often rattles off her lines as though she has just learned them and wants to get them out of the way before they fade from her memory.
What's more, Duff's choice in films suggests a reluctance or an inability to grow up. In A Cinderella Story, Duff plays Sam, a high-school senior with a mean, selfish stepmother (a suitably daffy Jennifer Coolidge) and two dumb, selfish "out-of-step-sisters." Sam dreams of going to Princeton University because her father used to call her a princess and, well, "Princeton" kind of sounds like "princess," doesn't it? Sam has a secret admirer—they swap anonymous e-mails—who turns out to be Austin (Chad Michael Murray), football jock and student body president. Meanwhile, Sam's best friend Carter (Dan Byrd) has a crush on Shelby (Julie Gonzalo), a snobby but air-headed cheerleader (when Carter bids her ...1